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One in three Afghan troops leave army: NATO

Azerbaijani soldier kills seven servicemen
Baku (AFP) Feb 21, 2011 - An Azerbaijani soldier shot dead seven of his fellow young servicemen at a military base, in the latest deadly shooting tragedy to hit the ex-Soviet state's armed forces, officials said Monday. An investigation is now under way at the scene of Sunday's incident, said a joint statement from the defence ministry and the military prosecutor's office. The statement did not name the killer or give any reasons for the incident. "A joint operational investigation group is taking all necessary measures to clarify the reasons and circumstances surrounding the incident," the statement said.

Azerbaijani news agencies reported that the shootings took place in a military unit stationed at Murovdag in the Goygol region in the west of the country, around 430 kilometres (270 miles) from the capital Baku. All the soldiers who were killed are reported to have been either 19 or 20 years old. The military in the former Soviet republic has suffered a series of similar incidents in recent years, which rights groups have blamed on a culture of brutality and corruption within the country's armed forces.

In January 2010, two soldiers shot and killed four fellow servicemen before killing themselves. In June, an Azerbaijani soldier shot dead two fellow troops and wounded a third before killing himself. "Suicides and hazing in the Azerbaijani forces are also regularly reported," said a report published by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank last month. The authorities however have denied that violent hazing of young conscripts is widespread in the army. There have been a series of massive defence spending increases in recent years in Azerbaijan, an energy-rich state which has become a major supplier of oil and gas through pipelines to Europe.

Azerbaijan has been building up its armed forces amid an increasingly tense military stand-off with neighbouring Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh, where ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control from Baku in a war in the early 1990s. Officials have stated that the country now has a modernised, battle-ready army, and the Azerbaijani defence minister said earlier this month that his forces were "seriously preparing" for the possibility of renewed conflict with Armenia to win back Karabakh.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Feb 23, 2011
One in three Afghan soldiers still leave the army each year, but NATO remains on track to raise the number of security forces to 305,000 by October, an alliance general said Wednesday.

The NATO training mission gets enough recruits to keep up with the high number of departures, which reached an annual attrition rate of 32 percent, according to its head, Lieutenant General William Caldwell.

Boosting the ranks of Afghanistan's security forces is a vital element of NATO's plan to begin handing command of the battlefield to Afghans this year, and start withdrawing some foreign troops, with the goal of giving them full control nationwide by 2014.

The attrition rate among Afghan troops is "not a trend across the army," Caldwell told reporters during a visit to NATO and European Union headquarters in Brussels.

But it is particularly high among battalions facing a fierce Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan, the US general said, blaming the attrition in part on weak Afghan leadership.

"It's not men who are leaving perhaps because they don't want to continue serving, but they either are continuously engaged in insurgent operations and not really getting a break or their leadership is not properly taking care of that," he said.

To keep up last year, the NATO training mission had to recruit 110,000 new soldiers and police to boost security forces by 70,000, a member of the training mission said, meaning that 40,000 men had left the ranks.

To reach its goal of 305,000 security forces this year, NATO will need to train 86,000 police and soldiers to add 35,000, according to a NATO document, meaning 51,000 men are expected to drop out.

Attrition includes soldiers who leave the army for various reasons, including desertion, the end of active duty and medical discharge.

The high number of recruits is allowing NATO to continue to increase the number of security forces "but also replenish any attrition that takes place," Caldwell said.

"We are on track right now to reach the approved growth goal by the international community of 305,000 Afghan national security force members by October of this year," he said.

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Denmark to begin pulling troops from Afghanistan this summer
Copenhagen (AFP) Feb 22, 2011
Denmark's political parties Tuesday backed a government plan to gradually pull out Danish troops from Afghanistan starting this summer through the end of 2014 and hand over responsibility to Afghan forces. Most political parties, except far-left groups, backed the plan which will withdraw 30 soldiers this summer from its 750-strong contingent in Helmand province and reduce to 650 soldiers b ... read more

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